When the Sun Rises

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Sunrise is an event that calls forth solemn music in the very depths of our nature,
as if one’s whole being had to attune itself to the cosmos
and praise God for the new day,
praise him in the name of all the creatures that ever were or ever will be.

I look at the rising sun and feel that now upon me
falls the responsibility of seeing what all my ancestors have seen,
in the Stone Age and even before it, praising God before me.

Whether or not they praised him then, for themselves, they must praise him now in me.

When the sun rises each one of us is summoned by the living and the dead to praise God.
~Thomas Merton from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

 

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The first hints of an orange sherbet sunrise this morning began around 5:15 AM, and rapidly stretched across the eastern horizon north and south, with the colors deepening and spreading across the cloud cover. Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters started as dark silhouettes against this palette of rich color, then began to show crags and glaciers as the sun illuminated the clouds above them. The entire farm was cast in an orange glow for a few brief seconds as the color crept higher and higher up the cloud banks overhead. Then it ended as quickly as it began.

All at once, everything returned to gray and ordinary, with no hint of the spectacular show that had just taken place. It could be dismissed so easily but must not be forgotten in our return to the routine of every breath, every step of our daily lives.

A sunrise is His smile and encouragement when we are barraged daily with discouragement. Here, free for the taking, is startling, wondrous magnificence beyond imagination — grace that brings us to our knees, especially when we are mired in gray troubled ordinariness and plainness.

Drink deeply of this.

Hold it, savor it and know:
to witness any sunrise is a chance to praise God to His smiling face.

 

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Before the Face of God

photo by Josh Scholten

“To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. 
To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God.
To live all of life coram Deo is to live a life of integrity.
It is a life of wholeness that finds its unity and coherency in the majesty of God.
It is a life that is open before God.
It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord.
It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance.
It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.”
R.C. Sproul

We buried and bid goodbye to my husband’s mother Emma yesterday.  In the past, too many family funerals have taken place in mid-winter, with snow and ice and north wind blowing chill at the graveside.  This service was different, a full week after the first hay had been cut and baled in the fields around town, with pink dogwoods and rhododendrons moving past peak bloom, with summer moving in fast to push aside the promise of spring.

In a way, burying the dead in the midst of so much life and growth and beauty seems discordant and not at all fitting.  But life has never stopped the inevitable crush of death before–with one exception over two thousand years ago.

Her children wrote in her eulogy that she lived “coram Deo“–literally “in the face of God.”  Her pastor eloquently described her as the woman of Proverbs 31:30: “a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”

Emma lived under the gaze of God, under the authority of God, open before God, captivated by the Word of God.  Her life was long and fruitful, loved and loving.   It was right and fitting to bury her surrounded by so much lush life, growth and beauty, as she left her gifts to surround the open grave in the form of her children, her grandchildren — some who had traveled many miles, her greatgrandchildren and the many people, like myself, who had been touched directly by her conviction and devotion.

And we walked away from that gaping grave knowing: whatever we do, wherever we do it, it is to be whole and holy before Him.

Coram Deo.

Lenten Meditation–Forever and Ever

photo by Josh Scholten http://www.cascadecompass.com

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them:
for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings:
and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
Revelation 17:14

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns. ”
Revelation 19:6

There were great voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord,
and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
Revelation 11:15

We hear various portions of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah all year round, usually in a non-religious context, like a commercial or cartoon, using this beautiful work to celebrate something other than the everlasting kingdom of the Lord.  Handel would be shocked at how mundane the word “Hallelujah” has become largely because of the popularity of his work.  It has become the staple of flash mob venues at Christmas, in food courts, train stations and malls, simply because it is so well known.

But it is not at all well understood.  This is far from a paean to Christmas, and is not meant to represent the “heavenly host” praising Jesus’ birth.  It actually is a celebration of the Messiah conquering death itself.  This is a battle cry about the defeat of evil, not at all a lullaby to a new born baby.

And so it should be the rallying cry for the faithful.  It should be sung from the rafters of department stores and gymnasiums and the greatest cathedrals.  It is a marvelous song to sing at full tilt,  each part intersecting and playing with the voices of the other parts.  It cannot be sung without a smile, a shiver down the spine and quickening of the pulse.   Even if the tradition of standing for the Hallelujah Chorus was started because King George II needed to stand up to stretch his legs after the lengthy first two sections of the libretto, it is worthy ever after of our standing attention.

So too should we attend to the story of Handel’s creation of his Messiah in a mere 24 days.  He was depressed, destitute and desperate for the work.  When he finished writing “Hallelujah Chorus”, his assistant, who had tried shouting to rouse Handel from the room where he had sequestered himself, walked in to find Handel in tears.  When asked what was the matter, Handel held up the score to “Hallelujah” and said “I thought I saw the face of God.”

When we hear these words, read them and sing them, so do we.

Forever and ever.